In taking their seats Tuesday on the Board of Supervisors, Maria VanderKolk said she will work to make Ventura County an environmental model for the state and Vicky Howard said budget constraints will be among the county’s major problems in the coming year.
Both were sworn in as the board’s newest members in a ceremony observed by a capacity audience at the County Administration Building.
The new board picked Supervisor Maggie Erickson as its chairwoman, replacing Madge Schaefer, who lost to VanderKolk in June.
VanderKolk, 26, whose campaign in the 2nd District last spring stressed environmental and slow-growth issues, reiterated the same themes Tuesday.
“We have to act with a sense of urgency while we have time to preserve agricultural lands,” she said. “We have time to save the wetlands and the forests.”
Developers are pressuring the county to allow more growth, she said. But the county must be careful about what growth it allows, she said, and scrupulously follow its planning standards.
By noon, VanderKolk had been assured that she will be able to influence growth and environmental issues by serving as a county representative on the Local Agency Formation Commission, which reviews applications for municipal boundary changes.
She also won the right to appoint a representative to the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, a state environmental agency created a decade ago to buy parkland in mountains that ring the San Fernando Valley.
The LAFCO appointment is significant since the board is reviewing Simi Valley’s plan to annex the Jordan Ranch area, where construction of 750 houses has been proposed.
During her campaign, VanderKolk opposed the proposed development of the ranch owned by entertainer Bob Hope. On Tuesday, she said, “Simi Valley has no ground to stand on” and called the annexation and development plan “ridiculous.”
Howard, 57, a former Simi Valley City Council member, until recently served as her city’s representative to LAFCO. A supporter of the Jordan Ranch annexation, the new 4th District representative had asked to be returned to the commission as a county representative.
Although she had to settle for an appointment Tuesday as an alternate member, she may eventually take the seat occupied by Supervisor John Flynn. He said he plans to relinquish it to Howard in a few months.
VanderKolk’s appointment to the conservancy came after a heated discussion by the supervisors.
The appointment traditionally has been made by the supervisor from the 2nd District, which VanderKolk now represents, because the Santa Monicas extend into that area. But when a vacancy occurred five months ago, Schaefer allowed then-4th District Supervisor James Dougherty to fill it. He appointed Michael Berger, vice principal at Moorpark High School.
Howard argued that the Berger appointment should stand because the conservancy has expanded its boundaries to include more land in the 4th District. But VanderKolk argued that the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreational Area is entirely in her district, although conservancy boundaries extend outside it.
The board unanimously approved VanderKolk’s right to control the appointment with the provision that county staff lobby the Legislature to create another conservancy board position to be appointed from Howard’s district.
With the addition of VanderKolk and Howard, the Board of Supervisors will have a new feel, Erickson said. Gone are Schaefer and Dougherty, who had reputations for feistiness.
“This year, instead of going on the attack, the board will spend its energy on problem-solving, being facilitators and building a team,” she said.
Like Howard, VanderKolk said she is concerned about budget constraints forced by the nation’s sagging economy. She said it’s possible to be an environmentalist and a fiscal conservative.
“I’m not naive enough to believe the board can save the whale and repair the hole in the ozone,” she said.